Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
We live at a time of great apostatising from biblical truth, shortly before the revelation of the Antichrist as world leader and false messiah, who will be followed, honoured and worshipped by a completely deceived world (2 Thess. 2:3; Rev. 13:3-4). As the man of sin he will play a leading role in the establishment of a culture of sin in which people will enjoy unrestricted freedom to believe and do as they please. The Bible indicates that moral, spiritual and doctrinal decline of gigantic proportions will occur in the end-times as a prelude to the appearance of the great deceiver of the kingdom of darkness: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). Satan himself is orchestrating the ever increasing end-time apostasy which not only occurs in the secular world but also in the inner circles of large Christian churches and their seminaries.
What currently happens in the apostatising, postmodern churches of the 21st century is exactly what Paul warned about: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). These people are completely averse to the evangelical doctrine of the Bible as its spiritual standard is too high and restricts them in the expression of their humanistic liberties. Furthermore, biblical prophecies on a dark time of judgements interfere with the plans of postmodernists to institute a manmade new world order.
The doctrines of backsliders deviate so far from the Bible that they are described as “fables”, i.e. human fabrications or lies. They prefer listening to free-thinking teachers who have the ability to render credibility to their unbiblical views. The inevitable consequence of this situation is that another Jesus and another gospel are proclaimed under the influence of another spirit who pretends to be the Holy Spirit. Paul says that such people have been deceived by the devil as he is the one who corrupts people’s minds from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3-4).
Theologians who rationalise these wrong ideas and train a new generation of preachers in terms of their aberrant convictions, are greatly responsible for the drastic decrease of spiritual standards in society. Unsaved and carnal people have a preference for preachers who declare them saved without the need to change their distorted views and immoral lives. They are the ones who do not endure sound doctrine and rather listen to fables. The superficial, deceptive and compromising preaching is like thorns and thistles that are sown in the spiritual fields of the world. It is non-offensive, socially acceptable and enjoys great support.
What is currently happening in South Africa is part of a worldwide assault on Christian doctrines. The phasing out of faith in the Triune God of the Bible, as well as an evangelical doctrine on justification, are prerequisites for the introduction of equalising, multireligious dogma of the antichristian new world order. The foundations of the old order must first be destroyed before laying the false foundations of a new world order. This assault is so intense that evangelical Christians can also cry out: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3).
An investigation into spiritual apostatising that occurred in South Africa during the past 50 years or so, reveals that there are five basic Christian doctrines that have been targeted. Some of them have already been abandoned while others have been rendered so controversial that they are now seriously debated and even openly questioned. Depending on the degree of resistance that is still encountered, the process of apostatising is not of the same extent in all churches and theological faculties. Each one should be considered on its own merits.
It is conspicuous that the doctrines that are attacked may be placed in a specific order from peripheral to core issues. It begins with the eschatology, followed by the doctrines on sanctification and justification, and is concluded by views on the Bible and ultimately faith in the Triune God. Let us investigate how these foundations are falling, while also taking notice of the new views to which they have to make way.
1. The premillennial doctrine on the second coming
Premillennialism is based upon the literal fulfilment of Biblical prophecies on the end-time. Not only will Jesus Christ return to the world bodily and set His feet on the Mount of Olives, but before that time a personal Antichrist will arise who will rule over a wicked world empire for seven years during the tribulation period. His revelation is withheld by the presence of the church of Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. After the true believers have been taken to heaven by way of the rapture the Antichrist will first be revealed as a false prince of peace and later as a military dictator (2 Thess. 2:3-10; Rev. 13:1-7).
After the second coming of the Lord at the end of the seven year tribulation period there will be a literal thousand-year reign of peace on earth, with the restored and saved Israel as the head of the nations. The Latin word mille means a thousand and is the basis of the term millennialism which refers to the millennial reign of peace on earth after the second coming. However, because of the spiritualising and allegorising of Biblical prophecies the doctrine on the premillennial coming of Christ is currently rejected by most churches.
The great majority of the present generation of reformed preachers know nothing about concepts such as the restoration of Israel, the rapture, and the coming Antichrist. They even deny that the word “rapture” is found in the Bible. But in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 Paul says: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (emphasis added).
The word caught up is a synonym for rapture (harpazo in Greek) and is no strange concept in the New Testament. In Revelation 12:5 this word is used to describe the ascension of the Lord Jesus. In that chapter, Israel is depicted as a woman from whom the Saviour and King of the world was born: “And she bore a male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and to His throne.” Whether you speak of rapture, catch up, or snatch away, it is exactly the same concept. People who reject this promise have to explain to themselves how else they wish to be taken from the earth to heaven one day.
What is the most important reason why the premillennial doctrine on the second coming is increasingly rejected? It stands in the way of a humanly-conceived kingdom theology (dominionism) in terms of which efforts are made to establish a mighty Christian empire on earth before the second coming of Christ. Transformation meetings, ecumenical ties and claims of big revivals are all used to substantiate this dream. The door is opened wide to all who want to become part of this movement in an easy way by merely joining hands.
This scenario is at variance with the Biblical description of hard times and a great falling away in the last days, as well as a great tribulation such as has never been on earth (Matt. 24:21). The amillennialists intend ruling over the world themselves, and that is the reason why they refuse to believe that conditions will deteriorate to such an extent that the Antichrist will gain control over the world. According to them, there will not be a great tribulation; consequently, they see no need to escape it by way of the rapture.
Neither do they believe in the physical restoration of the people of Israel in their own land because they see the church as the spiritual Israel of the New Testament. This is a very popular form of replacement theology by which other meanings are given to various Biblical concepts to render them more acceptable to modern man. The rejection of Biblical eschatology has paved the way for the uprooting and abandoning of other doctrines to allow fallen man to become the master of his own destiny. But in the process of doing so he becomes entirely alienated from Biblical truths.
2. The doctrine on sanctification
During the revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries there was great emphasis on sanctification as a further work of grace after conversion. Paul said: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification … He who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 4:3,8). Believers who accept this teaching in faith have a new encounter with God, which may also be described as being filled with the Holy Spirit, enabling formerly lukewarm, powerless, carnal, worldly-minded Christians who neglected their prayer life to keep on growing spiritually. They become spiritually stronger to gain victory over temptation and fleshly desires and to devote themselves wholeheartedly to evangelism.
That was the most important message which Andrew Murray and a few other preachers proclaimed during revival times in South Africa, and it resulted in great changes in the spiritual lives of many Christians. However, since the middle of the 20th century the doctrine on sanctification as a second work of grace was increasingly rejected in reformed churches, and they even started in a derogatory way referring to it as a second blessing.
The tragic consequence of this turn of events is that believers no longer grow up to spiritual maturity because they don’t know what it is to make a full surrender and to take up the cross of self-denial. What happens if the old, sinful nature is not wholeheartedly and actively surrendered to be crucified with Christ? “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17).
It is only when we are under the full control of the Holy Spirit and daily walk in the Spirit that we have the evidence of receiving the promise on sanctification. A person like this will be taught by the Holy Spirit and equipped for service, and consequently does not need to try and fill the gap in his life by academic studies only. Persuasive words of human wisdom are not an asset in preaching the gospel, as the message of such people is often not in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Study is important, but Bible study should take precedence over the reading of books – especially the books of agnostics. When books are read one should first determine whether the spiritual standard of the author is above suspicion.
Why is the doctrine on sanctification as a further work of grace ignored and even denied in our time? It evidently is because its main focus is on the man-God-relationship and teaches people what it involves to conscientiously follow the narrow way. Believers are no longer inclined to that sort of living and prefer to live permissively and also to spend less time on the Lord and His Word. They would rather shift their attention from the Lord to other people in an effort to improve their human relations. Instead of personal holiness and moral blamelessness they have a propensity for themes such as loving your neighbour and being Good Samaritans. They wish to eliminate social evils such as inequality, discrimination, poverty, disease and illiteracy, thereby establishing a more harmonious and happy human society. That is part of their kingdom reforms but it has no bearing on the spiritual needs of people.
Humanitarian programmes for social uplifting may be good and necessary but if they are not coupled with convincing evangelisation, the end result will be a modern heathendom.
3. The doctrine on justification
After backslidden churches have rejected the doctrines on premillennial eschatology and sanctification, the evangelical doctrine on justification is attacked. Conversion is made very easy because sin is hardly ever mentioned. Rebirth is linked with cheap grace which is imputed to people by way of church rituals based upon the erroneous idea of baptismal regeneration. This results in church members who only have a form of godliness as they only confess Christ with their lips while their unregenerate hearts are far from Him (Matt. 15:8-9).
It is to such spiritually backslidden churches that the Lord Jesus directs His admonition: “I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4-5). If such congregations do not restore the evangelical doctrine on holiness to its rightful place, the Lord will remove His lampstand from them, causing them to walk in utter darkness.
That is precisely what the devil intends as he will then be able, in the midst of the darkness of ignorance and the absence of a real relationship with the Lord Jesus, to further blind their minds and cause them to fall into utter apostasy. If such people do not, like the lost son, return to the Lord they will proceed on the way of error and also reject the remaining foundations of the Christian faith. They will be able to easily join hands with other unbelievers, even with the non-Christian religions, under the deceptive premise that they all worship the same God.
4. The Bible as God’s Word
The fourth Christian foundation which falls in the end-time rebellion against God is the Bible as the inerrant and divinely inspired Word of God. When that happens, the Christian faith is discredited in its entirety as the Bible is our only source for all Christian doctrines. The following views on the Bible are commonly entertained by apostates:
- It is a collection of human writings with many errors and contradictions.
- The authors of the Bible wrote their accounts in terms of a primitive worldview when people still believed in myths such as a snake, a dragon or devil that has a kingdom somewhere in the sky from where he torments, tempts and deceives people.
- Primitive thought influenced people to believe in supernatural phenomena such as virgin birth, resurrection from the dead, ascension, miracles, angels, a heaven and a hell. A modern, scientific worldview does not allow for such alleged irrational concepts.
- The Bible is regarded as a historical book which was relevant to its time but is not applicable to modern societies. During those early times women were socially inferior and people’s liberties were generally very restricted. Because of these obsolete perceptions homosexuals were given a bad name. Modern man has different views on these things.
- In pursuance of the peoples around them, the early disciples wanted a god to worship and consequently decided to start a new religion by deifying Jesus, while He Himself never claimed deity for Himself.
- Biblical prophecies colour a dark picture of the future because Israel lived in constant enmity towards its neighbours. It is alleged that all the so-called end-time prophecies were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem and the diaspora of the Jews in 70 AD.
What do the apostates wish to achieve with their belligerent campaign against the Bible as God’s Word? They want to promote a multireligious agenda in which credibility is given to the holy books of other faiths. They read the Bible through postmodern spectacles and with a great deal of prejudice, while attaching great value to the Koran, the Vedas and other religious books. Now, according to them, there can truly be peace on earth by equally respecting and recognising all religions.
5. The Triune God
The most basic and crucial of all Christian doctrines which is attacked and rejected by liberal theologians is the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To the Father they refer in a singular sense only as the universal God of all faiths. Titles from other religions are also ascribed to Him, e.g. Allah and Brahma. He does not have a son – only a number of prophets who act as mediators between Him and humanity. The Holy Spirit is described as a facilitator of supernatural, ecstatic experiences, while Eastern meditation is practiced as a technique to establish contact with Him.
But the greatest assault is on the person and attributes of the Lord Jesus. The Bible says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). If He is discredited then Christianity falls because He is the Word that became flesh, upon whom we build our faith. In terms of so-called scientific research on the historical Jesus they deny His virgin birth, Messiahship, deity, resurrection from the dead and ascension. He is reduced to the level of an ordinary prophet who was only a mortal man. As such He is put on an equal level with other prophets such as Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna, and others.
It is very obvious why the Biblical image of the Lord Jesus is deconstructed in a typical postmodern fashion, because without doing so He cannot make an end-time reappearance as the universal Christ of all faiths. He first has to be rendered another Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4). In the present situation of depraved, humanistic reasoning this other Jesus can come on behalf of all faiths to be the King of deceived humanity. That is exactly what will happen as the historical Jesus of postmodern theologians can easily identify with other religions of the world and unite them into one big brotherhood. He will head up the kingdom which the deluded dominion theologians are now trying to establish.
We are now in the time when the foundations of the Christian faith have either been destroyed because of large-scale apostasy in the traditional Christian world, or they are in an advanced stage of being rejected. Concurrently with this sequence of events the foundations are laid for an alternative religion and kingdom which will be under the control of the Antichrist.
Deceived theologians and churches will deny that they have built a modern tower of Babel and prepared the way for the Antichrist. But that is exactly what they are doing. When the Antichrist comes he will fulfil their dominion dreams and also speak their religious language. According to Revelation 6:2, he will come as a prince of peace riding on a white horse. He will praise all faiths for their contribution, thereby promoting good relations, unity and peace on earth. He will be so inspiring and non-offensive in his actions that nobody will initially be able to see through his concealed deception. John says that the whole world will follow the beast in amazement and veneration, and also worship him as their common world messiah (Rev. 13:3-8).
Within only a few years the Antichrist will start showing his true colours as a legate of Satan. At the middle of the seven year tribulation period he will shock many people when he declares himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:4). This act of extreme arrogance will give rise to widespread opposition towards his policy and claims, and because of all the resistance he will institute a military dictatorship to enforce his policy. His followers will still say, “Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them” (1 Thess. 5:3).
According to Revelation 13:5-7 this reign of terror will last for 42 months. In Revelation 19:19-21 we read about the sudden destruction of the Antichrist, the false prophet and their millions of followers on the day when Jesus Christ returns to earth. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
These judgements are the inevitable result of the present process of the overturning of Christian foundations. How utterly foolish to have any part in it! There unfortunately are still many people who have not yet taken a clear stand against the current process of apostatising. The Lord Jesus said that there should be a bigger divide between righteousness and unrighteousness, particularly now in the end-time: He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Rev. 22:11-12).
Paul adds to this call when he says: “Therefore, having these promises beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). Filthiness of the flesh refers to moral sins, while filthiness of the spirit alludes to doctrinal errors, superstition and unbelief. From these we must also be cleansed. That will only happen if we are filled with the Spirit of God, if we have enlightened eyes of the mind and are nourished by the pure milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2).
More than ever before we should, with boldness, let our light shine to the glory of the Lord and His kingdom. Without clear convictions of faith we will be overtaken and carried away by the forces of darkness, eventually to receive strong delusion to believe in lies (2 Thess. 2:7-12). Apostate theologians want us to sacrifice our faith in the Lord and His Word to the god of this fallen world on the altar of humanistic reasoning (2 Cor. 4:4). May the Lord keep us from these evil influences and equip us spiritually to appear before Him blameless, so He may also say to us in that day: “You have kept my Word and have not denied My name” (Rev. 3:8).